NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – Despite trailing by one point with 1:32 remaining in regulation, MIT was unable to claim the lead as Smith College held on for a 55-51 victory in a NEWMAC women's basketball game on Wednesday night. Sophomore Rachel Hunt (Arlington Heights, Ill.) led all scorers with 16 points, including an 8-of-10 performance from the charity stripe, to go along with seven rebounds, two steals, and a block for the Engineers (7-4, 3-2 NEWMAC).
With score knotted at five, the Pioneers mounted a 19-8 run that resulted in its largest advantage of the night (24-13) with nine minutes on the clock. Three-pointers by sophomores Sharon Hao (San Jose, Calif.) and Margo Batie (Los Angeles, Calif.) quickly closed the gap to five. Both squads went on to trade baskets as a Hunt layup coupled with a jumper from freshman Mari Kordell (Ijamsville, Md.) brought MIT within 29-25 at 4:50.
Smith ended its four-minute scoring drought courtesy of a put-back, but freshman Alexxis Isaac (San Antonio, Texas) responded with a layup while Hunt drained a pair of free throws cutting the deficit to two with one minute to go in the half. The Pioneers replied with a three pointer, helping them enter the locker room with a 34-29 edge.
The early stages of the second half were a defensive battle as Smith scored the first basket after 3:37 elapsed. Hunt kept the Engineers close with a free throw and a layup later on that made the score 36-32. After a steal and layup by Smith, Kordell buried a trey on MIT's next trip down the court. The Pioneers tacked on a pair of free throws; however, another Hunt lay-in trimmed the deficit to three (40:37) at the 12:29 mark.
After two minutes of scoreless play, another scoring flurry ensued beginning with a Smith layup. Sophomore Tamara Pena (Aliso Viejo, Calif.) connected on a three-pointer while two baskets by the hosts sandwiched a Kordell jumper, increasing the score to 46-42 with 8:08 on the clock. Free throws over the course of the next minute and a half extended the Pioneers' lead to seven, but a Hao three-pointer and Hunt free throw brought the Engineers within two (50-48) with 3:18 left to play.
Smith fended off the Cardinal and Gray with a layup 30 seconds later; however, Hunt converted the first of two free throws and added a layup to cut MIT's deficit to one (52-51) with 1:32 on the clock. Following their own timeout, Ellie Giles hit a jumper with 58 seconds remaining to give the Pioneers some breathing room.
MIT turned the ball over on its next possession, but received a second chance to extend the game when Isaac grabbed the rebound of Devon Quattrochi missed shot with 19 seconds to go. Hopes of forcing overtime were dashed when Quattrochi came up with a steal and after being fouled she hit the second of two free throws to wrap up the game.
Isaac finished with a game-high nine rebounds in addition to six points, three steals, and one block. Kordell posted nine points, five rebounds, and five assists while Hao totaled seven points and four boards. Pena snagged three steals as junior Anna Merrifield (Honolulu, Hawaii) tacked on four rebounds.
MIT continues its road trip on Saturday, Jan. 7 at league foe Clark University.